Writing down the words that you use on a daily basis is a useful practice for any industry, especially marketing. A lot of the terms you use for your work are second nature, but it’s not that way for everyone. After teaching a course at General Assembly, a lot of students provided feedback that they wanted more info about the basics – what is a title tag? how about those inbound links? It was a gap in my introductory course and the third time around, I tried to put a list together that covered theory and action.
Below, you’ll find my SEO glossary of the keywords I use on a daily basis and how they relate to the field. I’ll regularly update this SEO glossary as I start using new words — or at least, as soon as I notice. If you have any questions about certain SEO terms, leave them in the comments below and I can always add them to the list!
After you delete or remove a page from your website, you need to tell Google where that page has gone. If you’ve permanently deleted a page and you’d like to pass on the value of that page to another, then you should implement a 301 redirect. A 301 redirect tells search engines, like Google, that your page has permanently move and the other active page you’ve pointed to is meant to take its place.
A 302 redirect does not pass on the value of the page you removed, so use 302 redirects with caution. This tells Google that your page has temporarily moved, which you can use for maintenance. Make sure you remove the 302 redirect when you move the content back to its original location.
If you’ve retired a page because of poor performance and there is no appropriate page to redirect the traffic, then a 404 error code could be used. A 404 error communicates to search engines that the webpage can no longer be found on the server. It’s standard to use 404 pages, especially if there isn’t a better experience to direct the user to.
Sometimes, the issue with serving the user a page is not on the client side. A 500 error is served to a user and tells Google that the server could not be reached. This could be a problem with the server where you’re hosting your website, so you should check with your operations team if you see a spike in these responses from Google Search Console.
The area of a webpage that a user sees without having to scroll is known as the content above the fold. All content that requires scrolling to view is described as below the fold. It’s important to move valuable content and keywords above the fold, as Google understands this as more valuable web real estate.
Also known as a hypertext link, the anchor text is the visible text of a link. The words used in the text of a link help search engines understand the content of a page.
Anchor text links, typically in a horizontal navigation, that allows users to understand what page they’re on and to spread authority throughout your site.
A canonical tag, rel=”canonical”, is a fancy word for telling Google what the real webpage is for a given URL. This will help you avoid penalties for duplicate content and make sure that Google indexes the correct page. Each webpage that you want indexed by Google should have a rel=”canonical” tag. If you have multiple pages with similar content, then you can tell Google which page you’d like to rank by using the canonical URL.
Crawling & Indexing
Google stores more than 30 trillion individual pages in its index — aka a digital library with over 30 trillion documents. Google finds websites by following each link on the page by starting with a group of highly authoritative sites. The pages are stored in an index that people access by typing keywords into Google search.
Also known as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), this language is used to alter the presentation of a document or webpage. Using CSS, a web developer can change the color, size, or location of HTML on the page.
Developers will want to use relative URLs for speed and efficiency, but as any SEO would do — say no. Relative URLs just show the file path, for example
- <A HREF=”/FOLDER/FILENAME.HTML”>TEXT & STUFF</A>
This could lead to indexing and canonicalization issues, so it’s better to used a fixed or absolute URL. When creating an A HREF make sure you write the full URL in the source code.
- <A HREF=”HTTP://WWW.AUSTINJBAY.COM/FILENAME.HTML”>THIS LOOKS MUCH BETTER</A>
Header tags typically outline a section on your website to signal to users the name of an article or page. Each header tag is contained inside an h1, h2, h3, etc. Despite popular belief, header tags don’t have any weight in SEO. Google does understand text that is larger and higher on the page as being more important, but stuffing header tags with keywords is not a worthwhile SEO tactic.
This is short for Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML), which is used to format a webpage. This is the web language that search engines understand the best, so the most important elements of your site should be marked up with HTML.
A keyword or keyword phrase is a single or multiple keywords related to the brand, including the services and products. They can be divided into three categories: informational, navigational, and transactional. They can also be divided into head terms, torso, terms, and long tail terms based on the number of keywords used and total search volume. SEOs use keywords by placing them in the text of webpages in order to bring more traffic to a site.
Targeting multiple pages for the same keyword can cause your site to fight with one another. It’s like one webpage trying to eat another for the 1st position — also known as keyword cannibalization. By targeting the same keyword on multiple
There are two types of links that SEOs are focused on: internal links and inbound links. Internal links point to other pages on your site. Inbound links are from external websites pointing back at your own. A large number of links, including ones from trustworthy sites, is one of the keys to ranking in Google search.
Creating a logical site hierarchy will help you flow DA to the most important webpages on your site. The homepage of a website typically attracts the most links, so the most important pages should be linked to from there and every page thereafter. A logical site hierarchy will help Google crawl and index your site and give your webpages the best chance for ranking.
Phrases that usually consist of 3-4 words and have less search volume than head terms. These are usually highly specific and help small businesses drive qualified traffic to their sites without having to compete against the biggest sites.
pages, you’ll make it difficult for users and search engines to understand your site. Target a group of keywords for a single page instead.
Despite popular belief, meta descriptions have no impact on search rankings. You can set the meta description of a page by editing <meta name=“description”> in your source code. Although a meta description won’t improve your rankings with keywords, good meta descriptions can improve your click-through rate (CTR). Higher CTR is correlated with higher rankings.
By placing a nofollow command in the head of a webpage or around a specific link, you can tell Googlebot and other search engines not to follow any links on the page or a single link. This will prevent your site from passing on any DA.
You can instruct search engine robots, like Googlebot, to not index a page. If a page isn’t indexed, then it won’t show up in Google search. This is important for content management system (CMS) admin pages and other pages that you don’t want users to access.
PageRank & Domain Authority
Measured between 0 and 1, PageRank is Google’s numeric measurement of a site’s trustworthiness or authority. PageRank is largely influenced by high quality and a large number of backlinks — or just a healthy backlink profile. SEOs no longer have access to PageRank, so many use Moz’s Domain Authority (DA). The DA of a site is determined by similar factors, including age, popularity, and size, and is often used in lieu of PageRank.
These are the factors that Google considers when raking your site. The three biggest SEO ranking factors are content relevance, site trustworthiness or authority, and user metrics or signals that influence RankBrain.
A robots.txt file is typically stored in the root domain of a site. It can be used to restrict or control the behavior of search engine spiders, like Googlebot.
The results pages returned by search engines, like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, after a user has typed and entered a search query. You’ll frequently hear this word related to how the SERPs are changing because of updates to the ways Google ranks websites.
A single page or group of web pages that link to every accessible page on the website. A sitemap is typically used to make sure your full site is included in Google’s index. A spider, which is used to crawl the web, will follow the links contained in the sitemap.
The title tag is the text included in the title tag (e.g. <title>Sample Title</title>). You can view the title of a page by hovering over the browser tab or by viewing the code of the webpage. To view the code, press control + u on a PC and ⌘ + u on a Mac. Google uses the title tag to understand the page’s topic and should include the most important keywords that the page is targeting.
Uniform Resource Locator (URL) or the address of the page that you’re visiting. The cleaner your URLs, the better. The best URLs are human readable, do not include any special characters, and include key content keywords.
Google has a strict set of guidelines on the type of optimization that can be performed on a site. White Hat SEO practitioners do their best to follow those guidelines to get a site to rank higher in search. Black Hat SEOs use tactics that are against Google guidelines. Black Hat techniques may drive short-term growth, but are highly risky for long term rankings.